Recent permit legislation damaging ICT firms


23 Jul 2007

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Recently introduced government legislation covering work permits and visas for non-EU nationals is having a damaging effect on the Irish ICT sector, the Irish Software Association (ISA) has said.

In February, the Irish government introduced a new work permit regime that makes it more difficult for non-EU nationals to get work permits or visas for Ireland. The new arrangements signalled a shift away from traditional work permits in favour of more targeted schemes focussing on high-value jobs and skills shortages. This included ‘green cards’ for highly skilled workers and an intra-company transfer (ICT) option for secondees from connected companies. The traditional work permit remained but with a more limited application than before.

However, one affect of the legislation has been to restrict Irish IT companies’ access to skilled graduates from outside the EU, it has been claimed.

According to a Dublin City University survey earlier this year, Ireland has a shortfall of about 14,000 skilled IT workers. Access to skilled non-national labour is vital to make up this deficit but the new laws are making it hard for companies to get qualified overseas staff to fill the positions, said the ISA.

“They can apply for visas and work permits but the legislation that has come in is driven by the EU and it stipulates they have to go to the EU first. Consequently, it’s a long process and it’s very diffficult to get non-EU workers in here,” Michele Quinn, director of the ISA, told siliconrepublic.com.

“A lot of visas are being refused unnecessarily. It’s hindering Irish companies’ development. There are bottlenecks in the existing legislation that are blocking a lot of the peope we need to come in to work. That needs to be looked at urgently.

“A number of companies have been impacted because the renewal of work permits was affected by this legislation,” confirmed Martin Byrne, business develoment manager with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Ireland. TCS, which employs 85,000 peole worldwide, is the ICT arm of major Indian-headquartered conglomerate Tata Group.

“Even if you get a work permit, the lead time can be between two and a half to three months. Even then the permit length may be shortened. The government is tighter on the numbers and it’s looking at various quotas before it will grant a permit. It has slowed down the process and certainly made it more difficult to bring people in, which hasn’t been a help at all.”

Byrne said he knew of several companies that have lobbied the government in recent months about the effect it is having. “We already have a shortage of these types of skills in Ireland and this is making it more difficult. Bringing those skills in was at least controlling these issues.”

“It is critical we get the homegrown graduates but in the short term we need these foreign workers,” added Quinn. “At government level we need to iron out the problems we’re having with work permits and visas for non-EU nationals, particularly Asian and Indian workers.”

By Niall Byrne

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